Ubuntu 10.04 First Thoughts
I just upgraded my netbook to Ubuntu 10.04. So far, so good.
By Ryan McGreal
Posted April 30, 2010 in Blog (Last Updated May 01, 2010)
Last night I upgraded my Acer Aspire One from Ubuntu 9.10 to 10.04 (I use the regular edition, not the netbook edition). 10.04 is a Long-Term Support (LTS) release, meaning Canonical promises to support the desktop edition for three years and the server edition (which comes without a GUI layer) for five years.
It took all night to download the upgrade (watching the time remaining on the download status dialog brought me back to the halcyon days of the Windows 95 file-transfer time remaining status) but the upgrade itself was painless.
So far, here's what I think:
This is the most immediate, obvious improvement in 10.04. True to their commitment, the Ubuntu developers have made big strides in shaving as much as they can off startup and shutdown times.
Startup is visibly faster than 9.10, which didn't really improve much on 9.04. From the power button through the kernel selection to the login screen runs a cool 35-40 seconds.
Add another six or seven seconds after logging in to bring up the desktop, and another two or three seconds to auto-connect to the local wifi network.
One interesting note: 8.10 and 9.04 displayed long lists of command-line messages during bootup, while 9.10 eliminated that for a splash screen. Now I get command-line messages again, albeit only about eight lines and for only a second or two.
Shutdown is even nicer: six seconds flat.
I have only two small gripes with the shutdown process:
The indicator applet on the panel splits the user menu and shutdown menu into two separate dropdowns, but they still sit right beside each other as if they were a single item. It will take a little getting used to.
The default behaviour for shutdown is to pop up a confirmation dialog, but like 9.10 you can't right-click on it to access preferences and turn off the dialog. The easiest way to fix this is to open up a terminal and start
gconf-editor. (If you don't have it installed, fire up the Ubuntu Software Centre and install Configuration Editor.) Expand "Apps" in the tree menu on the left, select the "indicator-session" setting on the right side and check "suppress_logout_restart_shutdown" to turn off shutdown confirmations.
It's not brown. Really, that's the main thing. Beyond that, if you've upgraded after already customizing the appearance of 9.10, most of your settings remain intact (with one notable exception, below).
I tried out the new default Ambiance theme and didn't like it. It's just a little too purple and dreary for me. But as before, you can customize the hell out of your window styles via System -> Preferences -> Appearance.
In fairness, the window titlebar button positions are less bad than they were when Canonical first proposed moving them to the left side of the window chrome. In the first iteration, the buttons were in the order
[-][_][X], but in the release version they're in the order
[X][_][-] with the close button on the very left.
Yet I just don't see a benefit to moving them to the left side that justifies the aggravation of having to unlearn a habit that goes back nearly 20 years. After all, I originally chose Ubuntu in part because it seemed to be the easiest transition from a background in Windows.
Luckily there's an easy way to fix it. Open a terminal and run
gconf-editor. In the tree menu on the left click on Apps -> metacity -> general. Double-click on the "button_layout" setting on the right side and replace the text with:
menu:minimize,maximize,close to restore the previous behaviour.
A word of warning: if you go into System -> Preferences -> Appearance and change the theme, the window buttons will reset to the left side again.
Ubuntu 8.10 and 9.04 were a bit painful to get wifi working on an Aspire One. The only thing that worked for me was to download madwifi and compile from source. Every time a major system update installed, I had to reinstall madwifi (checkinstall didn't work for me).
This changed with 9.10, in which wifi Just Worked, and it still works in 10.04. In fact, it seems to connect considerably faster now - and the little connection icon in the NetworkManager applet looks prettier than the previous one. (With the icon in 9.10, I always had to double-check whether I was looking at the wifi or battery status.)
I decided to try out Ubuntu One, Canonical's cloud storage offering. Roughly equivalent to significant players (e.g. Dropbox), Ubuntu One offers 2 GB of cloud storage for free with the option to buy 50 GB for $10 per month. Also like Dropbox, you can share individual files and folders publicly.
Note: you access Ubuntu One through your Me menu, not through System -> Administration or System -> Preferences.
Setting up an account is easy enough, though the web interface felt slow and unstable. Actual syncing seems pretty smooth, though I haven't yet had a chance to try and modify files using different systems at the same time. More to come as I play with this.
The syncing options seem fairly impressive. You can even install a Firefox addon to sync your bookmarks.
Ubuntu One also comes with a music store provided by 7Digital. The selection is passable if nowhere near exhaustive, and the prices are not bad. I'd rather see songs in the $0.25-$0.50 range - for me, that's the break-even point against the opportunity cost of downloading free music - but we're moving in the right direction.
The music store also provides MP3s, which will grate Free Software purists but serves the rest of us just fine.
The store integrates closely with the Rhythmbox music player, which suffers most of the aggravations of a full-featured music player but at least can boast that it's not nearly as bloated or clumsy to use as iTunes.
For iPod users who are sick of iTunes and/or itching to run Linux instead of Mac or Windows, you can actually use Rhythmbox to load and sync your iPod.
There was a hullabaloo when Canonical announced that they were switching the default search engine on Ubuntu Firefox from Google to Yahoo, but they switched back before the final release. Hey, money talks when you're giving your product away for free.
As for Firefox itself, Ubuntu 10.04 ships with version 3.6.3. The lag between Firefox releases and the version available through Ubuntu's package manager was a fairly long-standing aggravation, which led to workarounds like Ubuntuzilla to get newer versions working.
I hope this is a sign that Canonical is committed to staying on top of new Firefox releases.
I only had two real software failures.
Brasero flat-out stopped working, returning an "unknown error" on any attempt to burn a CD or DVD. It looks like a lot of people are having this problem. Sooner than try to fight my way to a fix, I just started using Gnomebaker instead.
Gtk-Gnutella also stopped working. The version in the Lucid repository is two points behind the current version and throws an "ancient version detected" alert; it also fails to connect to the filesharing network.
My attempts to compile the newest version from source (I tried both checkinstall and a straight compilation) produced an application that would crash seconds after opening. I finally gave up and switched to Frostwire.
Otherwise, everything continued to work as expected.
There's certainly a lot more to explore before I've gotten to the bottom of this new edition, but so far I'm impressed. It's fast, solid and stable to use, the ratio of Just Works to Needs Hacking is approaching 1:0, the upgrade retained most of my previous settings without breaking anything, and several gripes I previously had with Ubuntu have been resolved.
Aside from a few annoyances that are fairly easy to work around, I have no major complaints.